Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself -- now I know why this author is still around. Book Review: A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh.
Now on to A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh. Originally written in 1990, A Promise of Spring is connected to her Web trilogy. It has also been re-released with The Temporary Wife as part of a package.
Have I mentioned before that Mary Balogh is the queen of angst? Now when I say that, I don't mean the kind of angst where the hero has a scar on his face and he can never luv another. No, Ms. Balogh's angst is based on her characters’ insecurities. So, in a lot of her stories there is a plethora of internal thoughts buzzing through our characters’ heads. The Promise of Spring is filled with these thoughts, so be prepared to be bombarded with some heavy-duty contemplation.
The main contemplation in this story revolves around age difference -- 10 years in fact. What's the big deal, you may ask. Well, it's the heroine Grace Howard who is older than the hero Peregrine Lampman. That means that there are alllll kinds of insecurities to think about. By the way Peregrine is one of the nicest beta guys ever -- almost toooo nice, but more on that later.
Grace Howard is the sister of Abbotsford village pastor Paul. She's a quiet woman, does her duty, cleans his house, and keeps to herself. She sits in the corner sewing when Paul's best friend Peregrine comes to visit. Peregrine is Mr. Sunshine; everyone loves him. He's charming, charming, charming -- there just isn't anyone who can find a bad thing to say about Peregrine. Then one day Paul is killed while saving a child, and Grace is left all alone and lost. Everyone in the village is trying to figure out what to do about Grace -- and I do mean everyone. But, before any of their plans can be put into action, Peregrine asks her to marry him. You see he's a nice guy and Paul was his best friend, so it's the least he can do. He proposes. At first Grace turns him down, then thinks better of it. But, before she accepts, she tells him her secret. She is living in Abbotsford because earlier in her life she gave birth to a child out of wedlock. Her child died and she and Paul broke with their family; they left to live out their lives in the small village. She also tells Peregrine that the father of the child died. Here's comes Mr. Nice Guy again -- he indicates that this won't be a problem.
They marry and begin a quiet life, in the quiet little village -- she tends the garden and sews, and he reads in his little corner. The only fly in the ointment is Grace occasionally wonders if Peregrine will continue to want her after a while. They grow together, they become friends, and they have a great sex life. Well, we all know that this bucolic life cannot continue. Grace has finally worked up enough nerve to write her family that Paul has died. She doesn't expect any kind of reply, so imagine her surprise and concern when she receives an invitation for her and Peregrine to visit. Well, the little gray cells just start chattering away -- not only hers, but Peregrine’s as well. She worries how long Peregrine will be interested in her and he worries how long he can keep her interested in him. She's sooooo old she can't compete with the younger women and he's sooooo much younger he can't compete with the more sophisticated men. After some thinking, they decide to make the step into Grace's past and try to mend some fences. So, more thinking and angst.
Are you keeping angst count? We have the age difference angst, Grace and Perry's, so that's two angstssss', now we have the family angst which would be the father, another brother and the sister-in-law (allll of them guilt-ridden). But the best angst is about to happen -- guess who isn't dead? Oops, did Grace tell a little white lie? Gareth, the guy who impregnated Grace alllll those years ago, is still alive and now he's the Viscount Sandersford. Guess what else, he still wants Grace. Hey that's not all, Grace doesn't tell Perry that Gareth is the guy, but he finds out anyway. So we have alllll kinds of angst -- the “age thing”, the “family thing”, the “old lover”, the “why didn't she say anything”, the “why isn't Perry saying anything”, the “should I leave Perry”, “should I go with Gareth”. There was so much angst going on my ears started to ring. Even with Ms. Balogh’s gentle cohesive writing all of that stuff was a little tooooo much.
I mentioned before that Perry was one of the nicest guys ever and I like nice guys in romance books. But Perry needed to be just a little bit more aggressive. Ms. Balogh wrote him as a pretty passive guy; so passive he doesn't do anything when he figures out who Gareth is. Even when Gareth becomes this extra pushy, obsessive guy, Perry remains passive. He lets Grace make up her own mind, afraid all the time that she will choose overbearing Gareth over him. As always with Ms. Balogh, her words are clear and Perry's actions are clear, it's just that I wished that Ms. Balogh had written him saying something -- anything to Grace. Perry does eventually confront Gareth, but Gareth doesn't really care. This was just such a small part in the book, but it weakened the story for me.
You may think I didn't like this book, but you’d be wrong. I did like it. It wasn't the most comfortable book to read and there are some things I would have changed if I'd written it -- but I didn't. There was a lot of quiet angst that this couple went through to find their HEA. When I finished reading this book I felt drained. I do give it a recommendation, but just remember it may not be your cup of tea and you might need a gallon of wine to help you get through it. This is a great example of Mary Balogh's strong writing.
Kay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.